A new paper in Schizophrenia Bulletin shows that artificial intelligence (AI) can help doctors to diagnose the mental health of patients with speed and accuracy. The new app designed for mobiles has been developed to improve patient monitoring using cues picked up from their speech, and is based on machine-learning tools.
The tool could come in extremely handy for American mental patients living in remote locations, as almost 20% do. This makes coming in to see psychiatrists or psychologists a big challenge for many of them. It could also be a boon for those who are simply too poor, too busy, or can’t get in to see a doctor for any other reason.
And it’s not just distance or poverty. Most therapists base their management of individual patients on what they hear their patients say. However, many studies have shown that human listening is both highly subjective and unreliable. According to researcher Brita Elvevag, who is a specialist in cognitive neuroscience (the role of the brain in thinking and related processes), “Humans are not perfect. They can get distracted and sometimes miss out on subtle speech cues and warning signs. Unfortunately, there is no objective blood test for mental health.”
Computers are different. They are programmed to do something and they do that, come hell or high water. While this makes for boring people, it makes for excellent diagnostic accuracy in AI. In search of a possible solution based on AI, the researchers delved into machine learning to develop a program that could ‘learn’ how normal people talk, and from such a foundation, pick up small clues that show how a patient is doing on any given day. They say language is a critical tool to detecting the mental state of patients, and changes in language from day to day can be picked up using this simple tool to monitor patients on a daily basis from afar.